It is the year 2019. The world is overcrowded. Decaying. Mechanized. Android slaves, programmed to live for only four years, are technological marvels - strong, intelligent, physically indistinguishable from humans. Into this world comes a band of rebel androids. Desparate to find the mastermind who built them, bent on extending their life span, they will use all their superhuman strength and cunning to stop anything - or anyone - who gets in their way. Ordinary people are no match to them. Neither are the police. This is a job for one man only. Rick Deckard. Blade Runner.
Thus opens the novel Blade Runner: A Story of the Future. But even if you so enjoyed Ridley Scott's Blade Runner that you went back and read the original novel that provided the film its source material, these words may sound unfamiliar to you, not least because you almost certainly would have gone back and read Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the real object of Blade Runner's adaptation. When the movie came out in 1982, out came an edition of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? re-branded as Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — and out as well, confusingly, came Blade Runner: A Story of the Future, the novelization of the adaptation.
Who would read such a thing? Movie novelizations have long since passed their 1970s and 80s pre-home-video prime, but in our retro-loving 21st century they've inspired a few true fans to impressive demonstrations of their enjoyment of this specialized form of literature. "They’re special to me because when I was younger there were a lot of films I desired to see but didn’t get to, and the novelizations were sold at the Scholastic Book Fairs,” says enthusiast Josh Olsen in an interview with Westword, who describes his books of choice as “adapted from films, or early drafts of films at least, locked with short deadlines and printed cheaply and perfunctorily and end up being part of the movie’s massive marketing universe. Basically, it’s the literary equivalent of the McDonald’s cup from back in the day.”
And so we have Audiobooks for the Damned, Olsen's labor of love that has taken over thirty of these novelizations (all out of print) and adapted them yet one stage further. You can hear all of them on the project's Youtube page, from Blade Runner: A Story of the Future (an easy starting place, since the novelization's scant eighty pages make for a listening experience considerably shorter than the movie itself) to The Terminator to Videodrome. And if you'd like to spend your next cross-country drive with such cherished kitsch classics as Poltergeist, The Brood, Over the Edge, or The Lost Boys in unabridged (and unsubtle) prose form, you can get them on their featured audiobook page. This all delivers to us the obvious next question: which bold, nostalgic Millennial filmmaker will step forward to turn all these extremely minor masterworks back into movies again?
Colin Marshall writes elsewhere on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, and the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future? Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.